Dementia friendly dance class improving lives

Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 8:38 AM PST
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From the cha cha to the waltz, dance is a part of human nature. At Ballroom of Reno, they are proving just how beneficial it can be.

"We joke everyone’s born with rhythm," said Desiree Reid, a ballroom instructor. "As long as you’re born with a heart beat and have two feet, you can dance."

Nowhere is that more apparent than in two special classes every Wednesday morning. Everyone taking the classes is impacted in some way by dementia.

"Ballroom dancing, specifically partner dancing, it grounds them and says this is here. This is now," Reid said.

Reid said the physical touch between dance partners helps draw those with dementia out of isolation.

"It’s how we relate. It’s why a hug feels good. So we are able to use our hands and connect with people."

Created in partnership with Dementia Friendly Washoe County, everything from the physical touch, to movement and music makes an impact on the dancers' lives.

"It gives us more cognitive function paired with physical connection with people’s hand and music to solidify all of those things we learn, you have the perfect combination for brain growth," Reid said.

Donna Brown and her husband Ron have been taking the class for several months. Not only does she see a change in her own husband who is living with Alzheimer's, but she sees a change in everyone.

"It changes everyone’s personality," she said. "Everyone is very subdued when they come in, and the minute the music starts, everyone is happy. Everyone is having a good time. So it’s like you just put an hour of the disease behind."

Some go to the class for prevention. Others like Ron and Donna are there for therapy.

"For a guy that has no rhythm, turning out nice I think," Ron said.

Reid also has seen a change in Ron.

"His balance was getting better," she said. "And walking was getting easier. And just being jovial was easier."

For spouses, this class can bring back their partner, even if only for a short time. Donna and Ron are building new memories. Ones they can hold on to as Ron's disease progresses.

"Its been, very bonding," Donna said. "When they first started the cuddle position, that’s when he would reach over and kiss me."

The two even dancing together in their home during a blackout, surrounded by battery operated candles. In fact, not a day goes by where there's not a special touch between the two.

"Music was playing the other night while I was cooking dinner and he just came in, twirled me around once and left the room," Donna said.

With each step and touch, pieces of these dancers' old selves come back.

"They’re not 80 years old on the inside," Reid said. "Their brains, and their emotions, and their heart, and their need to connect with people, their need to be witnessed, to say someone saw me exist. That’s the same if you’re 5 or your 85."

The dementia friendly dance class is held every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. at

. They are located at 2540 Sutro Street, Suite #4, Reno, Nevada 89512.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020

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